Making Miracles Happen
TMT Farms Lights the Way
For some it’s jingle bells, for others, seeing the Nutcracker ballet performed live, or A Christmas Carol on stage, and still others get the Christmas spirit from experiencing a live nativity or a cantata at church. If you’re looking for something to fill you with the holiday spirit this year, don’t miss TMT Farm’s Extravaganza of Lights display shining from the Saturday after Thanksgiving until just past Christmas. A brilliant gift to the community of light and laughter from Bulloch County Commission chairman Roy Thompson, wife Deborah, and family.
The Thompsons started building their trail of lights 15 years ago when Roy placed an antique wagon and some free standing reindeer decorated with strings of lights at the entrance to their farm on Old River Road North in Bulloch County.
“We bought the farm in 1989,” said Roy, “and built the house in 1993.”
“We lived on Marvin Avenue for 23 years,” said Deborah, “Roy built the cabin to be big enough for us to live in if we decided to move to the farm one day. He thought I wouldn’t want to live there because it was too far out, but I loved it out here. We put a for sale sign on our house one week and it sold the next. We have lived here ever since.”
Roy and Deborah have been joined on the farm by daughter Jennifer, son Tyler, and their spouses, Jeff and Chrissee, plus seven grandchildren ranging in age from five to 30. “It takes all of us to get it ready for the holidays each year,” said Roy.
What makes the trail of lights so uniquely local in flavor is the collection of iconic business signs from Statesboro’s past. The Thompsons have recreated places that those who grew up with them in Statesboro can remember from times gone by. There’s a Henry’s dress shop, a re-creation that honors the owners, the Moses family, who lived near Deborah where she grew up at the intersection of Brannen and College Boulevard.
A complete brick replica of the Snooky’s Restaurant façade, with original lighted sign also graces the trail. There’s a tribute to the Pav-a-lon, the former structure by the old Rec Department pool on Fair Road where Statesboro’s children used to gather every summer. The Pav-a-lon building has a “swimming pool” with lounge chairs and mannequin life guards to complete the effect.
“A lot of kids growing up today don’t know Snooky’s, Henry’s or the Pav-a-lon,” said Deborah, “Or Robbins hot dogs.”
“We like collecting old landmarks,” said Roy, “We have great memories from those places growing up. We like old things. We have been trying to develop areas on the trail to interest all ages.”
Both Roy and Deborah are natives of Statesboro. Roy graduated from Statesboro High School in 1964, followed by Deborah in 1967.
“We started dating the summer after my freshman year,” said Deborah.
Next March they will have been married 50 years.
“We never broke up and we have worked together every day of our marriage in the flooring business Roy’s dad started in 1952,” Deborah shared.
Their dedication to each other and to the community at large is inspiring.
The Thompsons have no idea how many lights are strung from the trees to the ten-feet-tall stand-up Christmas characters, down the lane around a whole village of western store front facades, across teepees, outlining the village chapel, around the bend to the corral and the Statesboro nostalgia scene.
“We added 600 boxes this year,” said Roy, “Businesses has been good to us about buying lights in bulk. We have purchased other supplies such as lumber locally as well.”
“We are not able to do this without our family, and a great community that supports us,” said Deborah. “To start with, our family worked every night collecting the donations of non-perishable food we ask folks to bring us to benefit area food pantries.”
There is no admission charged for the light show, but the Thompsons do ask viewers to bring along some food to help feed those less fortunate. Or a new toy in its original wrapping for a family who may be struggling during the holidays.
Neighbors, civic organizations, Sunday school classes, and other area groups have stepped forward to relieve the Thompsons from spending every night during the holidays at the collection booth. They volunteer to help with collections and steering the cars along the circular trail.
The attraction has grown to cover 1.6 miles of the Thompsons Farm. During the month long exhibit, 35,000 cars come through the display. Some nights the line of cars can be backed up down Old River Road for two miles in both directions filled with friends and families ready to experience what has become a Bulloch County Christmas tradition.
“There’s always more than one person in each vehicle,” said Roy. “We estimate between 325,000 and 350,000 saw the light show last year.”
“Some cars have waited two hours to come through,” said Deborah.
Even the waiting in the car has become part of the tradition. Families bring along blankets and hot chocolate and seem to enjoy the anticipation of seeing the lights and seeing the expressions on the children’s faces as much as the attraction itself.
The TMT Farms Christmas Lights Display is becoming well known among Christmas lights enthusiasts as one of the best in the South.
“We were contacted by The Great American Light Fight that has a national contest for the family with the best Christmas lights show,” said Roy, “But, we were ruled out because they were looking for one house on one parcel of land. Ours is a whole village including all our family’s homes here on the farm. It’s unique.”
Last year the Thompsons were able to help 150 -175 families in the Portal area with food collected and Pastor John Long of Christian Social Ministries filled-up the bed of a pick-up and a cattle trailer with food for the local pantry to feed the homeless and hungry. The Thompsons consider their lights display a mission for the community, for which they find inspiration in their favorite scriptures.
For Roy it’s Philippians 4:6, “Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God.” “And don’t forget to thank Him for His answers,” added Thompson.
Deborah likes Romans 8:28, “And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.”
“We have tried to instill in our grandchildren that you don’t get the full benefit of being blessed until you share your blessings with others,” Deborah said.
“It’s a blessing to me,” said Roy, “Because it’s a little like being Santa, but I believe it’s the work of the Lord. There is nothing more heart-warming than to see the kid’s faces – it is Christmas after all! The spirit in the heart puts the spirit in the air. We believe that spirit is the love of Christ.”
Editor’s Note: The TMT Farms Christmas Lights Extravaganza will open on Saturday, November 25 at dusk and continue through Thursday, November 28. For more information or directions, you can visit them on Facebook at TMT Farms Christmas Lights Display.